Schizophrenia Awareness Day 25 July
Schizophrenia is a severe and disabling illness and one of the most stigmatized psychiatric illnesses. The exact cause is unknown, but it is likely to be the end result of a complex interaction between genetic, biochemical, developmental and environmental factors. The illness has an enormous impact on the individual and his/her family.
Schizophrenia typically appears in late adolescence or early adulthood and follows a life-long course. There is a misconception that people diagnosed with schizophrenia are violent and dangerous. It is usually necessary to admit the patient to a psychiatric unit during an acute episode. The illness is treated with medication and psycho-educational programs may also have a positive effect on the long-term outcome of the illness. There are indications that the longer the duration of untreated psychosis, the poorer the long-term outcome.
The highest risk of relapse is closest to the onset of the illness and the most common cause of relapse is discontinuation of medication. Side-effects of the medication may be one of the reasons, but also the type of support system the patient has.
Bantu Zotwana of Welgelegen has written a book about his experience with schizophrenia. He has a passion for creating awareness about the illness and hopes that his story can bring hope to thousands of people having to deal with schizophrenia. Many people are hesitant to talk about their illness or to approach mental health professionals for help. This causes a lot of unnecessary suffering. This is why Mr Zotwana’s openness about his illness is so important. He maintains that he is not ‘suffering from’ schizophrenia, but is ‘living with’ schizophrenia. He made a decision to live his life and not to be miserable about his illness. He manages his life successfully by living a well-balanced life and taking his medication regularly. He believes that casual drug use in his youth contributed to triggering his schizophrenia.